The U.S. Supreme Court dismissed an appeal by a group of states seeking to defend the Trump-era public charge rule, leaving in place a lower court ruling that they could not intervene in the case. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will continue to enforce its pre-Trump public charge rules and pursue rulemaking to formalize longstanding policy.

Key Points:

  • In August 2019, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a final rule to redefine the public charge ground of inadmissibility in a way that could have significantly restricted immigration to the U.S., particularly among lower income applicants.
  • The rule faced a number of lawsuits, and several courts ruled to block or vacate the rule in 2020.
  • In March 2021, the Biden administration announced it would no longer defend the rule in court. USCIS then released updated guidance confirming that applicants would no longer need to provide documentation required under the 2019 rule.
  • In February 2022, USCIS proposed a regulation that largely formalizes this guidance, in an effort to “return to the historical understanding of the term ‘public charge.
  • A group of states, led by Arizona, attempted to intervene to defend the 2019 rule. The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that it had “improvidently granted” the states’ appeal, which means the states will not be able to defend the rule.

BAL Analysis: The Supreme Court’s ruling maintains the status quo and means that USCIS will continue not enforcing the 2019 public charge rule. It is important to note that the Court did not weigh in on the legality of the Trump-era rule. In a concurring opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts emphasized that the Court was not ruling on the merits and the decision has no bearing on how the Court will treat any pending or future litigation on this issue. USCIS continues to conduct public charge inadmissibility determinations consistent with its 1999 Interim Field Guidance. BAL will continue to provide updates on developments relating to the public charge ground of inadmissibility.

This alert has been provided by the BAL U.S. Practice group. For additional information, please contact

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